Summer of Arcade has become a very impressive tradition on Xbox live. For the last four years a special selection of games has been released for a few weeks weeks during the summer. Another tradition, apparently, is for one of the games in this bundle to stand out as an amazing achievement in artistic story telling. Previous showings ‘Braid’ and ‘Limbo’ gave us two amazing platformers: one a time-travel platformer with a plot so deep and dark that no one can agree on wether it’s a failed love story, a tale of regret from men who dared to play god, or something else entirely; the other a look into a child’s twisted nightmares pitting innocence against darkness and true fright. This year we are presented with a proud and worthy work of art in Bastion.

Developed by Supergiant Games, Bastion is a top down action game with some RPG elements, and a very nostalgic feel to it. Impressive art style and a dynamic narrator are what mainly make this game become an unique experience.

Bastion is the story of “The Kid”, a nameless youth trying to find his way in a world broken after the Calamity hit. Walking Through a path that is created as he takes each step, finding new weapons and fighting new monsters, and a few friends, along the way, the kid pushes onward looking for reasons as to why the calamity happened and how to fix it all. The kid reaches the titular Bastion, a floatig town which is supposed to be humanity’s last refuge in case of just such a catastrophe, and finds that only one other person made it there.

The graphics in this game are an amazing hand drawn style that make he scenery appear like a beautiful watercolor and remind us of the old 16 bit games of yore. The main character, along with the enemies and other NPCs are very well detailed and carefully animated. The stages are lovingly crafted, with faded landscapes deep in the background that are almost forgotten as sections of the stage float up from the vast emptiness creating the ground you walk on. The newly formed hovering islands contain innumerable objects and debris to interact with, and to rummage through for weapons or plot advancing collectibles.

The gameplay in Bastion is very flexible, especially for an action game. The kid can wield a wide variety of weapons allowing the player to decide if he prefers close or ranged combat, or a mixture of both. The RPG elements further allow the player to build an even more customized character. These elements consist of a tonic system that allows the Kid to get certain perks, and the ability to use money to boost certain abilities on your chosen weapons. With this setup you can develop for example a Kid who’s tonics give him more damage resisting armor and longer range on his shotgun; or a character that does more damage with said shotgun and recovers health with every attack he blocks.

Another gameplay element that is kind of different in this game is the ability to activate different deities in the shrine, which don’t strengthen your character, but instead grant upgrades to the enemies. Enhancing baddies extra health, speed, strength and over a docen other perks, the player can activate any number of deities at once to fluctuate the level of difficulty in the game. The trade-off from activating more deities is a higher amount of cash and experience received, but activating all deities is not recommended except for higher level players, or for those who can deal with the frustration of constant deaths.

This is a graphically beautiful game with fast-paced, engaging gameplay, yet some how the strongest part of the game is the story. Well, rather than just the story, it’s the way in which this story is delivered to us: a calm, wise, friendly voice describes our every move emphasizing special actions taken, or imparting advise on what the player should do next. The narrator also tells us what befell the land and it’s inhabitants as we walk through it, and it’s done with such passion, sadness and at times even humor, that we find ourselves eager to do and see more just so we can hear what he will say next.  How much he actually has to say is quite impressive, and from beginning to end you will never feel alone.

Bright colors and a cartoony style are a sharp contrast to the heavier tones of the game’s sad story. The narrator compliments and enhances the game, balancing all of the games elements, and moving the story forward. My only complaint for Bastion might have been The game’s length, which is almost too short. But multiple endings, increased challenge through the use of deities, and a “new game plus” feature increase Bastion’s replay value immensely. I cannot recommend this game enough.

[starreview tpl=46 size=’30’]

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